Time: 5 pm (local)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
Welcome, everyone, to Bright Side of the Sun. Thank you for making time to check out this game preview while so much else of vital national importance is taking place on this Super Tuesday, which I believe has something to do with tacos.
The Phoenix Suns (15-44) travel to North Carolina to take on the Charlotte Hornets (30-28) in what promises to be a game of basketball.
The Hornets dropped their last game in Atlanta to the Hawks on Feb. 28, losing 87-76 after scoring just nine points in the 1st quarter. However, that was the final game of a six-game road trip that saw them go 4-2. The Hornets have won eight of their past 11 games as they find themselves presently locked in a four-team race with Indiana, Chicago, and Detroit for the final three playoff seeds in the East.
Charlotte is led by near-All Star point guard Kemba Walker, who averages 20.5 points and 5.1 assists per game. Small forward Nicolas Batum, acquired in the offseason, has been a solid addition for Charlotte, putting up 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and a team-leading 5.5 assists over his 49 games. Cody Zeller has moved ahead of the oft injured Al Jefferson in the pecking order and has averaged 9.7 points and 6.5 rebounds as a starter this season. Rounding out the Hornets' starting five are Marvin Williams, who has put up decent numbers as an undersized stretch power forward, and Courtney Lee, who is a recent addition from the Memphis Grizzlies. Off the bench, Jeremy Lin serves as their sparkplug, scoring 11.9 points per game.
As a team, the Hornets have lived and died by the 3-pointer this season, launching a team-record 1,705 already this season (third-most in the NBA) and making a team-record 597 (fourth-most in the NBA). However, they only shoot 35 percent from distance and a meager 43.1 percent overall (29th in the NBA). Only four teams commit fewer turnovers per game than the Hornets' 13.1 average.
Points: Kemba Walker (20.5)
Rebounds: Marvin Williams (6.8)
Assists: Nicolas Batum (5.5)
The Suns are coming off a rare win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 27 — a win that both snapped a 13-game losing streak and gave them their first win in the month of February, preventing them the ignominy of becoming just the fourth team in NBA history to go winless in February.
Phoenix has gone through a number of iterations since the season began — and since Earl Watson took over as interim head coach for that matter. The latest is all about featuring the young players, with Alex Len now starting alongside Tyson Chandler, Archie Goodwin splitting time as the reserve point guard/two guard, and rookie Devin Booker starting his 22nd consecutive game tonight. The three have been a mixed bag since the team was entrusted to them after the All-Star break, though. Booker has averaged 10.4 points on 29.3-percent shooting (29.2 percent from 3) as defenses take away his breathing room, and Goodwin has averaged 11.2 points on 31-percent shooting as his game regresses since losing his brief starting spot to Ronnie Price. Len, meanwhile, has averaged 18 points and 10.8 rebounds and has posted big games against San Antonio and Memphis. In non-youngster news, Mirza Teletovic is enjoying the best stretch of his NBA career, scoring in double figures in nine consecutive games.
As a team, the Suns still struggle mightily, so no change there. They allow the second-most points per game in the league (107.6), which is the team's highest average since the 1989-90 season. They also allow the highest opponent field goal percentage (47.2 percent) and 3-point percentage (38.1 percent) of all 30 teams.
Points: Eric Bledsoe (20.4)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (8.5)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.1)
Eric Bledsoe (Suns): left knee surgery (OUT)
T.J. Warren (Suns): right foot surgery (OUT)
Brandon Knight (Suns): sports hernia (OUT)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Hornets): right labrum surgery (OUT)
Spencer Hawes (Hornets): back strain (OUT)
The Suns actually beat the Hornets in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 6, coming away with a 111-102 win at home on the strength of 19 made 3-pointers. That game also saw Phoenix's bench outscore Charlotte's 53-23, with 19 points from Teletovic and 17 apiece from Booker and T.J. Warren.
But counting on another 3-point barrage, this time on the road, is unlikely. Complicating matters where the Suns are concerned is that Charlotte is currently battling for a playoff berth and is coming off a tough loss in its last game, giving the team ample motivation for tonight's matchup. The Suns will need to channel the same effort level from two night's ago to remain in the game, but Phoenix could find itself suffering from a letdown after the relief of finally getting off the schneid.
Cody Zeller vs. Alex Len
A battle between the Nos. 4 and 5 picks of the 2013 NBA Draft, Zeller and Len offer an interesting battle to watch. Both are 7-footers, but where Zeller is more agile than Len, Len has the strength advantage. Surprisingly though, Zeller actually takes a greater percentage of his shots from 10 feet in than does Len. The two have a similar propensity to foul, so this matchup might just go to the player who can get the other in foul trouble first.